Cannabis Industry Questions New System That Would add Chemicals to Marijuana for Tracking Purposes

The Institute for Cannabis Research at the Colorado State University-Pueblo campus that was created by the Legislature in 2016 is using taxpayer money to develop a tracking system that would use an additive — a chemical or compound — designed to monitor where a marijuana plant was grown and where it ends up.

That tracking system was the mandate of a bill introduced into the Legislature during last year’s session that lawmakers rejected twice, primarily because the state’s marijuana industry loudly told them they don’t want to add a foreign substance to their product.

Those rejected bills also would have called on the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the marijuana industry, to use whatever new system the institute came up with despite the viable alternative tracking systems that already exist.

“I just don’t think it makes any sense at all because then you’re basically doing research for a private company,” said Glenn McClellan, chief executive officer of the Grand Junction-based Source Certain International, a subsidiary of an Australian company that has long employed a process for tracking agricultural and mineral products from source to sale.

“I think it’s a good idea to get technology to work for us, but if the university system is going to do research they ought to open up the doors and let everybody come in,” he said. “They should publish criteria, ‘This is what we’re looking for,’ and then select the best one.”

The Daily Sentinel tried to obtain detailed information about the research and the reasons why the institute was going ahead with it, but the school rejected a Colorado Open Records Act request, saying that information was part of an ongoing research project, an exception allowed under the law. The Sentinel tried to narrow its CORA request to simply ask for the institute’s operating budget, but that, too, was declined.

In an email statement, the institute said it was not looking into tracking in general, but at a specific tracking system that would use some form of isotope that could be added to a marijuana or hemp plant at birth. Theoretically, that isotope would then be embedded into the plant, allowing products stemming from it to be tracked to the source.

“Researchers at the institute are conducting research to develop and validate a possible technology that could be applied in a variety of ways for tracking/source identification of plant material,” institute spokesman Greg Hoye said in an email. “The expectation of the research is to develop and validate a potential tracking technology that is versatile enough to be used in several applications. The technology can potentially be used in a variety of industries.”

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